If you thought that only people owned land, you would be mistaken. Since 1890, a 201-square-foot circle of land has belonged to two generations of white oak tree. According to legend and newspaper records, the original tree stood on the property of William Henry Jackson, son of politician and Revolutionary War veteran, James Jackson. On August 12, 1890, The Athens Banner printed their front page title with the article “Deeded to Itself,” about a tree that had its own property rights.
The Tree That Owns Itself
The legend of the tree may have existed as a folk story or rumor prior to the publication of the news article, but from the time of the publication onward, the Tree That Owns Itself became a landmark within the state of Georgia. Jackson supposedly had fond childhood memories of the tree and decided to protect it by writing a deed that promised the tree itself and the land within 8 feet of its base to the massive oak, according to the Athens Banner article. The truth of the article remains unknown, as the anonymous author is the only one who ever claimed to have seen the tree’s deed, and they even say in their article that few people had heard of the legend.
Picking the legend apart further, the tree does not sit on the plot of land that belonged to the Jackson family, and though there is a plaque with the alleged date of the deeding at the base of the tree that was supposedly placed there by the neighboring landowners and Jackson, there are no legal records that back it up. Furthermore, Jackson did not grow up in Athens, making the claims of his childhood memories in the tree’s branches rather shaky. Property maps of the area show the tree’s present location as being part of the road easement for Finley Street, one of its border roads.
Even though the legal backing for the Tree That Owns Itself is shaky, the county and city recognize the tree for its legendary status. By the early 1900s, the tree showed signs of erosion around the base, and in 1907, an ice storm caused irreparable damage to the already-weakened tree. On October 9, 1942, the tree finally fell, succumbing to its injuries and rot. Some suggest that the tree, which was between 150 and 400 years old by the time it fell, had actually died a few years prior but had taken some time to fall. Within days of its demise, however, plans were put into motion to grow a new tree from one of its acorns.
The Son Of The Tree That Owns Itself
In 1946, in a continuation of the deed that once belonged to its parent tree, The Son Of The Tree That Owns Itself was planted on the very same plot of land. It assumed the provisions set forth by Jackson’s original deed, inheriting its autonomy and its land from its father. On its plot, the plaque deeding the land still stands, as does another commemorative plaque naming the new tree as the scion of the original.
Though the story surrounding these two trees is more fiction than fact, The Tree That Owns Itself remains an important symbol to the town of Athens, Georgia. It stands as a major tourist attraction and remains one of the most famous trees in the United States, even to this day.
Hawaii is known for its natural beauty. From its gorgeous sandy beaches to the volcanoes and more, tourists (and natives) have many opportunities to get lost in the islands’ breathtaking views.
But there’s one attraction forbidden from tourists, and that’s the Haiku Stairs. Also known as the Stairway to Heaven, this 3,922-step stairwell would be the perfect destination for tourists who wish to see Hawaii unlike ever before.
So, what’s the real story behind these mysterious stairs? And why is it illegal for tourists to visit them?
Originated During World War II
If you haven’t heard about the Haiku Stairs until now, don’t worry. You’re not alone. It’s a hidden gem in history, but the natural site has existed much longer than you might think.
After the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941, the United States Navy built a radio station in Haiku Valley on Hawaii’s O’ahu island. The top-secret plan was intended to enhance military communications, an essential need following the devastating attack during World War II.
But in order to build the radio station, construction workers had to suspend the massive antenna between two mountain walls rising as vertically as possible. With a similar height of 2,000 feet and flat land in between, the Haiku Valley was the perfect location as it created a natural amphitheater to amplify the signal. It would be difficult to climb toward the station; therefore, workers created a stairway to help, which ultimately led to the historic Haiku Stairs.
Offering The Most Gorgeous Views Ever
If you’re lucky enough to gain access to the Haiku Stairs, you will want to spend all day at the site. Nestled between Hawaii’s natural vegetation, adventurers would be surrounded by mango and palm trees, lilies, ferns, and more.
With a view like this, it’s not surprising large groups of tourists would flock to the stairs to see the view for themselves. But not everyone was happy with this sudden increase in popularity.
Closing Down For Safety
The Haiku Stairs first opened to the public in 1975 by the U.S. Coast Guard. But due to immense popularity, the stairs were closed to tourists in 1987 because of vandalism and safety concerns. Many tourists understood the new regulations, but in the age of social media, tourists have wanted to trek to the stairs for the perfect Instagram selfie.
This isn’t safe, which is why the Coast Guard closed the stairs. For example, a 2015 storm left the stairway rugged and dangerous to traverse. The Board of Water Supply works hard to protect the stairs, spending $170,000 per year to place guards on the stairs. If you’re caught trespassing, you could expect a fine of up to $1,000 and a court date. On top of that, local residents have booby-trapped their property to prevent trespassers from reaching the stairs.
Don’t think Hawaiian locals are frustrated with the popularity of the Haiku Stairs. They are, but they would never think of demolishing the stairway. After all, it’s a unique part of history. Instead, locals united to form the Friends of Haiku Stairs, an organization of volunteers who work together to protect the stairs. This is all in hopes of eventually restoring the Stairway to Heaven to its original beauty.
Across the globe, humans produce 300 million tons of plastic each year, about half of which is intended for single use only. Of that plastic, approximately 8 million tons ends up in our oceans. Every gallon of gasoline becomes 20 pounds of carbon dioxide when burned, and the average car produces about six tons of carbon dioxide annually. However, more than any individual civilian contribution, industrial pollution is the single most detrimental source of greenhouse gases on the planet. How can you, as an individual, make a difference?
Curbing Your Plastic Addiction
As a single person, you may feel that your impact on the global scale is minimal, but every little bit counts. If every person did a little bit to make a difference, all of those tiny steps would result in a significant change. So, how can you do your part to save the Earth? Here’s a breakdown of the things you can do in your daily life to keep the world a habitable place.
Start small by replacing single-use plastics in your homes, such as freezer bags, plastic wrap, and bottled water with reusable substitutes. Invest in reusable grocery bags and in food storage containers that can be used in the fridge, freezer, or pantry to store the things you would otherwise bag. Glass jars are great for storing macaroni, rice, beans, and other dry goods, which are often purchasable in bulk. To ditch the plastic wrap, buy (or make) some beeswax wraps. The wax-soaked fabric will form to any container with the heat from your hands, it’s watertight, and it can be used over and over again. Finally, swap your bottled water for a filter. Most tap water is potable if filtered, and whether you use a filter pitcher or a faucet attachment, nearly any water can be turned into fresh drinking water. When you’re out and about, carry a reusable water bottle. If you keep only water in it and wash it regularly, it’ll say clean and fresh indefinitely.
Transportation is a significant contributor to carbon emissions. If you live in a city, consider public transit, or, if possible, walking or biking to your destination. Carpooling or taking public transportation dramatically reduces the amount of carbon dioxide created per person when traveling. Even more than ground-based transit, air travel is responsible for up to 2 percent of all carbon emissions, so if you can get by without taking the plane, the planet will thank you.
At home, you can make a difference in the industrial component of pollution in several ways. First, saving energy by turning off lights, adjusting your thermostat, and installing energy-efficient light bulbs are all inexpensive ways to cut industrial pollution and save you money. If you can install solar panels on your roof, most reports show that they pay themselves off within ten years. Even the food you serve at your dinner table can make a difference.
The meat industry is one of the foremost contributors to greenhouse gases, cattle especially. Cows alone produce a variety of globe-warming gases, from the carbon dioxide required to house and process them to the methane and ammonia they produce by way of existing. Switching to a more vegetable-heavy or meat-free diet can go a long way toward protecting the planet. When it comes to producing crops, while some organic products are beneficial to the environment, genetically-modified crops are often more land-efficient and have less of a negative impact on the environment due to higher crop yields. Best of all, if you can buy local, do so.
Lastly and most importantly, your voice and choice are likely to go the farthest at the polls. Voting on critical issues at the local and national level can help reduce the amount of industrial pollution by capping factory emissions, imposing environment-protecting legislation, and levying taxes on companies that don’t follow the rules while rewarding those who do. Just as important as voting wisely on industrial regulations, the people that you vote for can do as much harm or good at the end of the day. Research your politicians and see what their views on climate preservation and protection are before you give them your vote. They’re the ones who make the large-scale changes, so it’s up to you to put the planet in good hands.